Jack (John) Cover, inventor of the TASER stun gun used by thousands of police departments worldwide, has died at the age of 88. According to his obituary in the Washington Post, Cover, a former NASA scientist, invented the nonlethal device in the late 1960s in response to hijackings and riots. He applied for a patent for a “weapon for immbolization and capture” in 1970, filed a continuation on July 10, 1972 and and was finally granted a patent (US 3803463) on April 9, 1974.
Cover’s 1974 patent has been cited by 43 patents including an “Electronic Disabling Device Having an Adjustable Output Pulse Power” issued on January 6, 2009 to Corey Rutz and Michael Kramer and assigned to the Defense Technology Corp. of America in Casper WY. (US 7474518)
The electric gun has been a long-time fixture in sci-fi and adventure stories. In fact, the name TASER was inspired by Cover’s favorite character from a novel called Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle (TSER). The A was added later to make the name easier to pronounce. Inventors have been fascinated by electric weapons for more than 100 years. In his 1974 patent, Cover cited an electric harpoon patented by Dr. Albert Sounenburg and Phillipp Rechten in 1852. (US 8843). This is another great example of the importance of including older prior art in patent searches.
TASER International is based in Scottsdale, AZ and holds 25 US patents and dozens more worldwide.